Teaching Is Like Driving

My husband and I took our honeymoon to Spain. We balanced our contributions to that trip: I spoke Spanish and he would do all the driving (he was 25 by the trip and I was not so this was required for the rental car). The problem we faced, aside from my lagging Spanish, was that he didn’t drive manual transmission. I did. The months leading up to the honeymoon involved him, at 25, learning to drive all over again. At one point he said to me, with great frustration, “I used to be a good driver and now I suck!” (For the record, he had no trouble driving us all over Spain, even with getting directions in my limited Spanish. And the next car we bought for him to drive was a manual transmission. Not only had he mastered it, he’d come to love it.)

My own children getting to ‘drive’ with their aunt.

When, after ten years of teaching fourth and fifth graders, I switched to teaching first graders, I completely understood his feeling. I can remember thinking, “I used to be a good teacher and now I suck!” I had felt, at that point, like a highly proficient teacher. I was National Board Certified. My school had nominated me for teacher of the year for my district. I was mentoring new and pre-service teachers. I knew what I was doing. Then, suddenly, I didn’t.

Just like my husband and the manual transmission, however, I kept at it and found I loved it. This time it didn’t take ten years for me to feel as confident as I had before.

At this point, I think I could learn to drive just about anything: motorcycle, motor home, Maserati, and more. It would take time, at first, to figure it out, but all of my driving experience would make that process easier. The same is true for teaching. I’ve taught fourth graders, fifth graders, first graders, kindergartners, and third graders in the past two decades. I’ve taught adults as well. If I suddenly were teaching high schoolers it would be difficult and would take time, but I think I could get the hang of it and do it pretty well. All of my experience would support my growth.

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